Earlier this week Campaign Asia-Pacific published a story about how Herbert Hernandez, co-founder of independent agency Gigil in the Philippines filed a cyber-libel complaint against Denise Tee, a creative director at Wunderman Thompson who had earlier detailed in a Facebook post a personal account of harassment from him.
Reaction to our story on social media was swift and unequivocal - we had got the headline wrong and did not have the full context of the story. The real story was not about Hernandez's latest salvo but about the emergence of harassment claims against the Gigil creative leader in the wake of recent justifiable outrage over a particularly disgusting and demeaning advertisement to women made by his agency.
They were right. Some went further, suggesting our initial headline which only mentioned the libel suit in response to a Facebook post was part of a paid PR campaign on Hernandez's behalf. It was not. We ourselves had sought confirmation from Gigil around Hernandez's absence and in the process learned of the libel complaint and the earlier Facebook post.
Reporting on the libel complaint we maintain is a legitimate and important part of this story, but is in no way intended to lend support to it. Yet we understand why many readers feel otherwise. The nature of news reporting places more emphasis on new developments and sometimes omits important context as our initial headline did. Recognising this, we changed it.
Some feel this did not go far enough and we acknowledge what we could have done differently in reporting this story better. Some learnings we will take from this moving forward are to dig harder to identify the larger story earlier and to encourage a greater diversity of comments on record.
As a publication that has taken the lead on reporting of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in adland across Asia from India to Japan, Campaign has documented how difficult it has been for women to come forward. As the first to commission and report industry research on the subject, we identified harassment was not a small issue for Asia and while more feel empowered to speak up about it in the workplace according to our latest joint research with Kantar, we identified progress was not happening fast enough.
Since we published this story, we have learned that many more accounts of harassment in the industry are emerging. Our hope is that more people will feel empowered to share their experiences, and that it will drive important conversations about the abuse of power in the industry. To that point, we are also working hard to speak to as many sources as possible for a future story that intends to provide better context to this situation and related issues.
Our strong hope is that people in adland and marketing feel supported by their leaders, colleagues and peers to come forward when incidents arise. Those who don't may need to seek external help from official organisations like those identified here in the Philippines.
We strongly encourage anyone in the industry who has experienced harassment in the Philippines to contact the women’s organisation Gabriela, which is giving counsel and protection to women reporting behavioural misconduct in the workplace.
We also feel it important to bring more shared experiences out in the open. For those wishing to further comment on this issue or describe their own experiences, on or off-the-record, Campaign would like to hear from you. You can email our editors or get in touch via our Contact Us page.
We owe it to our readers and everyone in the industry to do better.